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Government urged to set biotech crop rules

Government urged to set biotech crop rules
LONDON - A parliamentary committee of ministers has told the government that it cannot allow genetically modified (GMO) crops to be grown until it introduces concrete rules on planting.

The government is expected to launch a consultation exercise on the issue over the next few weeks.

\"There is huge confusion in both the government\'s and the European Union\'s position in relation to GM crops, especially in relation to thresholds of contamination of non-GM crops and thus liability,\" the report, released by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, said yesterday.

\"We recommend that the government begin the process of consultation soon, so that final details of a coexistence and liability regime for GM crop cultivation can be settled.\"

Earlier this year, the British government gave the green light for a single type of GMO maize to be grown on a commercial basis, but since then, the company behind the biotech seeds, Germany\'s Bayer CropScience, has decided not to press ahead with plans to bring them to the market.

The powerful all-party committee also recommended that any future planting regime respect the legal requirement that organic crops suffer zero contamination and not the 0.1-0.9 level currently being discussed.

Last month, several European Union governments called for more concrete rules to regulate GMOs while also encouraging growth in the bloc\'s fledgling organic farming sector.

So far, only a handful of EU governments have drafted coexistence laws providing for financial liability in cases of crop contamination. These laws must be based on guidelines issued by the European Commission last July.

The guidelines refer, for example, to isolation distances between crops, buffer zones and pollen barriers such as hedgerows, as well as advice on cooperation between farmers on sowing plans and crop varieties with different flowering times.

Environmentalists backed the UK report\'s findings.

\"It is clear that the committee has grasped the significance for farmers and consumers of allowing GM crops to be grown in the UK farm more thoroughly than either the UK government or the European Union,\" Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow said.

\"If the forthcoming government consultation does not take this report on board it will be a meaningless sham.\"

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